Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are 
interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

                                                                ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the ninth blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules for teens written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire. 

I am intrigued with the current trend where teens finishing high school or college want to ‘take a year off to do their own thing or find themselves’. I don’t understand this mentality at all. On reflection, in ‘our day’ we paid our own college tuition and the minute college was over, we couldn’t wait to get to work to recoup our funds. Granted, back then, jobs were a lot easier to find than they are now, but we HAD to find work. Nobody ever dreamed of taking time off just for a breather.

So, from whence does the notion of ‘taking time off for a rest’ come? There is something to be said for having to pay your own way. Here in the United States many parents start their kids’ college funds almost from the time the children are born. Since fees are so high now, many parents consider it is necessary to be saving for their children’s college expenses from those early times! Right now there is an advertisement on TV by Gerber baby foods. They have a college fund program running beginning at infancy.

When children have been in school for upwards of twenty years, their parents have usually been taking care of their kids’ physical and financial needs to the point where the young person is not having to develop any responsibility. They get the idea that there is a money tree out there that just keeps giving. The kids are shielded from the tough realities of life. They haven’t had to work, so they are not mature enough to realize that no work means no money.

Then there are those young people who refuse to work at anything they are not passionate about. They would rather do nothing than toil away at something that didn’t suit them. Where does this mentality come from? I suggest it comes from early parent training or lack thereof. When kids take no part in household chores or are allowed to avoid the chores they don’t like, they get the idea they can do the same thing throughout life. When parents bail kids out of trouble or financial difficulty, the kids think their boss will protect and spoil them just like their parents have done.

There is something to be said for the ‘school of hard knocks’. For every action, or lack thereof, there is a consequence. Making wise choices brings positive responses. Making poor choices, being picky, not studying and expecting to be rescued all the time will eventually leave a young person sitting on the bench.

We, as parents, must train our kids to take responsibility for their choices from their earliest years. We need to show them what hard work yields. They need to know that a forty-hour week is a normal expectation and that taking time off (apart from vacation time) should only come about when they have the money to cover it.

The more time teens have on their hands, the more likely they are to become introspective – to start feeling sorry for themselves – to feel dissatisfied with life and start whining and saying, “It’s not fair.” Studying and working hard yields job satisfaction and often a higher income in the long run.

It is not the school or employer’s job to turn our children into responsible, productive members of adult society. It is our responsibility and it starts from their pre-school years.

Comments by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families


Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
                                                                                    ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the eighth blog Sally or I will write based on a series of 11 life rules for teens written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire.

What a shock it was to discover this very thing in our school system when we moved to America nearly 18 years ago. I was employed to set up an alternative school for students who had committed zero tolerance infringements so they could continue their education for a year, but not in the regular public schools. Extra credit questions, Summer school, an after-school makeup for students having too many absences or tardies. I wasn’t used to this. In every other country I know of, if you fail you fail and you get over it.

Our two children went immediately to College on their arrival. A few weeks into his study I asked our son how he had done that day. His reply floored us. “I got 110 out of one hundred.” I asked him how he could possibly get 110. He told us that he had ‘aced’ the main test and that there was an extra credit question worth 10% as well, and he had aced that. We sort of snickered at this incredulous situation. I then began to learn that failure here was a ‘No, no!’

“We can’t afford to let children fail. It might hurt their self-esteem!” Self-esteem has been so overrated! How precious are we to think we can, or should, shield our children from failure. The brightest and biggest Biblical characters all failed miserably at some time through their lives. Most of the world’s renowned leaders, inventors and entrepreneurs failed many times in their lives before becoming great. In New Zealand, when I was in High School, the last three years had national exams set by the Department of Education. Only 50% were allowed to pass to keep the standards high. They scaled the results up or down to attain this percentage. My two brothers and I worked very hard, but we all failed one of those sets of exams and had to do the whole year over again. It hurt at the time, but we got over it. We all ended up with degrees and have all been school principals!

Life is not like we experience in our school systems here. Life is tough and you usually have only one shot at things. So why do we give our kids false hope and not prepare them for the real world? We have become far too soft and pamper our children. Many employers tell me that the young people they hire today are poorly equipped for employment and they give up so easily. They are not used to high expectations. Focus is pitiful. Poor work ethic is rife and we wonder why our economy is in such poor shape (apart from the political reasons!).

Let us, as parents, raise our kids to be equipped for reality, not fantasy. Teach what it means to fail and how to recover from the experience. Look up stories on the Internet about the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill and J.K. Rowling. You will find they all failed many times before achieving greatness. At the same time demonstrate tenacity, focus and courage in your own life. These three character qualities and a positive work ethic are learned when your children see them operate in your life.

Failure is an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. You only fail if you quit trying to reach your vision or goal. We owe it to our children to demonstrate that hard work, being smart and making wise choices will equip us to succeed in life. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Philippians 4:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached the goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God has called me through Christ to the life above.”

Comments by Brian Burgess, Forefront Families

Friday, February 16, 2018


'Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got
that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about
how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest from the
parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.'
                                                               ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the seventh blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire. 

If you have the most amazing teenagers that you are so proud of share this with them so you can have a good laugh together. If you can relate to this rule because your children are like Bill Gates’ description above then share this article with them and discuss how things need to change.

We parents can become very boring due to the responsibilities of life and routines we become accustomed to. When we are raising children our lives are so motivated by our kids’ needs that we spend nearly half our lives pandering to their every whim and fancy. That’s if you have allowed your children to be the center of their universe. What do you usually get at the end of that? …entitled kids who believe they should get everything they want and for you to wait on them hand and foot. They go on to believe that you will let them come and stay at home for free if they lose their job or make no effort to secure one.

In their adulthood they believe the Government owes them a living and that bosses are sucking everybody dry. It never crosses their mind that taxpayers are paying for them to be lazy and that bosses have taken many risks. They have gone to a lot of expense to ensure others can make a living from their business.

When you finally get tired of the parasite that is living within your walls, you try toughening up, but it’s often too late. You have become a monster in their eyes. “How could you be so cold as to tell me that I have to have employment within another month? I thought you loved me?” So, the emotional blackmail is applied and at this point many parents give in.

The problem is that parents like this should have taught responsibility to their toddlers. Children who are allowed to be the center of the universe grow to believe that they don’t have to do anything and things will just come to them. I have met so many enabling parents who admit that they have done this. One lady even said to me that she believed she needed to let kids be kids and that they would have plenty of work to do in the future, so for now, nothing. Oh, dear! What a harvest of whining, disrespect and trips to the Principal’s Office there’ll be in the future! As for the pain that she will have to endure, she will have to wear that one. Her kids will disrespect her and all other authority they encounter. I have seen it happen so many times. The parent says, “Where did I go wrong?”

Young person, your parents are not your slaves. Their job is to shape you to fit into the adult world and the work environment so that you can make a great living and contribute to society. You should be shaped to make a difference in the world. You are cool when you know how to cook, wash your clothes, know how to iron them, keep your room and the house clean and tidy, mow the lawns and do things even without being asked. Now, that is super cool!

If you find your parents boring thank them for all they have done for you and encourage them to have times for themselves. Relieve them of stress by not causing any, and be the young person that others look at and say, “I wish my kids were like you!”

Comments by Brian Burgess, Forefront Families


              'If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes,
                                                                     learn from them.'

                                                                      ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the sixth blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire.

This message addresses the need to take responsibility for our own actions. Lack of accountability is one of the worst traits in our society today. The first thought in many people’s mind when something goes wrong is, “That wasn’t my fault”, or “Who is responsible for this terrible thing that has happened to me?” The scenario can be almost anything. Here are some of the most common blame game responses. “I can’t help the way I am. My parents were the same.” “If the City had fixed this hole in the road I would not have stepped into it and sprained my ankle.” “I didn’t pass the test because the teacher didn’t tell me what was in the exam.” “The Devil made me do it!”


We are encouraged by advertisements on TV to sue drug and other companies for our misfortune. We are encouraged to go bankrupt rather than see the lack of wisdom that often gets us there. Many times we find ourselves saying, “It is the Government’s fault, the school’s fault, the company’s fault, the church’s fault or the club’s fault.” Don’t we realize that by blaming an entity we are accusing nobody in particular – just ‘them’? A school, a church, or a club is made up of individuals, none of whom have the right to make an executive decision on issues. Throwing the blame at a faceless group is a futile attempt to shrug off our responsibilities. Wouldn’t it be more useful to join a committee and actively try to make changes that would benefit the community?


Sadly, the sense of personal entitlement is taking over. Our thoughts tend to be all about ourselves and not about those who are also suffering as a result of our poor judgments.

When I break something in a store, do I take it to the counter and offer to pay for it? When my child’s teacher tells me that my child is disrespectful to authority, do I take responsibility for his behavior or blame the school for not teaching him good manners? We cannot expect our children to take responsibility for his actions if we do not.


Our strongest core family values need to include honesty and accountability. We can teach our children to take responsibility for their own actions by making clear our expectations and applying consequences for unacceptable behavior. They need to know that blaming someone else is not the appropriate response. It may be that someone else was at fault, but it is important to discuss the situation to see if there was anything your child could have done that would have resulted in a different outcome. Discussing situations after the event is a valuable way of helping our kids make wise decisions to prevent negative stuff happening in the future.

We all make mistakes, but it is a wise person who learns from them, thus avoiding repeats of the same scenario.

 Rules for Life are written by Charles J. Sykes
Comments by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

Saturday, February 3, 2018


          'Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different
word for burger flipping -- they called it opportunity.'
                                                                ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the fifth blog Sally or I will write based on a series of 11 life rules written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire. 

This rule is similar to the sentiment in rule number three which indicates that you will NOT automatically fall out of College into a $60,000 plus salaried job. You have to work up to it.


In today’s economic climate there is no room for a negative attitude about performing tasks for less pay than we might have got in an earlier job or think we are worth. My husband had a pay reduction of $61.00 per day this year, but he kept the job because we have to live! Even if we have to do menial tasks for a season of time we should be prepared to do that so we can eke out a living.

I have known people who flatly refuse to work any job that is not to their liking or at their level of expertise. Listen. Answer the question, “Do I want to go hungry, or do I want to swallow my pride and do what it takes to feed myself and/or my family. Yes or no? No buts! You would think the answer was obvious. We find this situation over and over again. After advising unemployed friends to just go and find ‘something’, they would rather moan and groan and cast themselves on the Government or rely on friends and family to prop them up.

Where do kids get such a negative attitude towards ‘flipping burgers’? I suggest that the root is the sense of entitlement that is fed to them from several sources. Kids who have been given much and have not been expected to pull their weight doing chores around the home develop the attitude that they are the center of the universe and that menial tasks are for other people…anyone else but them. They have never had to worry about any food supply or other resources so they have no sense of satisfaction in working towards achievement. They think success just mysteriously arrives in their lap.


If we are told from childhood that we are part of the strongest and greatest nation on earth, then it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking we are invincible, that our ‘walls’ cannot be penetrated, and that we are totally protected. Wrong! Bad things happen to even the best people, so we need to teach our children strategies for managing threatening or stressful situations that are beyond our control. These might be situations such as not being able to get the job we want, losing a job, having to wait for what we want, coping with competition and coping with failure.

We need to encourage our children to see simple tasks as an opportunity to learn different skills and to appreciate how the little things make a big difference to individuals as well as to the society around us. Imagine no burgers?


We need to teach our kids that menial tasks that don’t pay well are still very worthwhile. We also need to show them that working for no money at all can be very satisfying. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and teaching our kids to work hard for high salaries. It is just not a realistic expectation for many in the current economic climate.

There is a very important value in understanding that it is not always about us. It’s not about what we want and how quickly we can get it. We need to be happy doing the little things because we will not always be in control of every situation.

We need to teach our kids to land on their feet, but more importantly to STAY on their feet no matter what it takes. Self-sufficiency needs to take the place of the term ‘entitlement’ in our society today. The Government or others don’t owe us anything for lying around on pity-party blankets.

 Rules for Life are written by Charles J. Sykes
Comments written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families
www.forefront Families.org



                        'If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss!
                                                                           ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life

This is the fourth blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire.

I’ve heard so many complaints by students over the years about their teacher being too tough and expecting too much. This statement usually comes from students whose parents have been too weak on them. The parents have not only rescued them from trouble in the community or at school, but they have rarely expected them to do any chores or take on any responsibilities.


One day a parent said to me that she didn’t want her child to do any chores or take on responsibilities yet because they would have more than enough to do when they became an adult. What a fatally flawed argument! A major parental role is to shape a child to take on their responsibilities in the real world. A child’s work ethic will come from seeing their parents working hard around home and by children sharing the workload as team members in the family.

We need to be tough on our children and hold them to a high standard. Children want to please their parents and will do anything to get that positive response. “Well done! You did a great job! Thank you.” Your child and their future bosses will thank you. I had a humbling yet incredibly pleasant experience when I went to pick up my son from his work. He introduced me to his boss who then said, “Mr. Burgess, I’m so pleased to meet you. You and your wife must have done a lot of things right because your son is incredible. We just love having him here.” It almost brought me to tears and I have never forgotten this praise. We were tough on our kids, but we demonstrated a lot of love, too. I have had similar experiences with bosses and work colleagues where our daughter has worked.


I’m not telling you this for any aggrandizement, but simply to say that what I have explained to you about preparing our children for the real world is based on my experience as a parent and as a teacher and school administrator. No boss wants to hear from your child, “Well, I was in Special Education classes or I was abused when I was a child. That’s why I am not doing my job to your standards. I’ll have to get my mom to come and have a talk with you.” You cannot go to your child’s place of work and blast the boss because he is being too tough.

The solution to this is: When your children are very young teach them respect for all forms of authority. It starts with them respecting you. Give them respect and train them to respect others, respect the earth and especially to respect God. When they see us being respectful in relationships they will model on that. If they do not observe us being respectful, that’s how they will act. If our children see us being lazy, not completing tasks and being lax with them they will think their boss is being over-tough on them if he/she expects any more than that. Bye-bye job!


We have all heard the phrase, “There is no freedom without responsibility.” If our child displays a very responsible attitude they will probably be given more freedom at home and within their job because they can be trusted. If they have to be ‘stood over’ regularly to get any sort of work out of them the boss is going to be saying things our child may not like to hear. This is usually interpreted as being too tough. So few people today seem to want to take responsibility for their actions. It’s always somebody else’s fault. In summary, it is our duty as a parent to ensure our children are adequately equipped for the real world well before they go to work.

 Rules for Life are written by Charles J. Sykes
Comments written by Brian Burgess, Forefront Families
www.forefront Families.org

Saturday, January 13, 2018


'You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a
vice-president with a car phone until you earn both!'

                                                         ~ Charles J. Sykes author of Rules for Life 

This is the third blog Sally or I have written based on a series of 11 life rules written by Charles Sykes and referred to by Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire. 

Wow! That socks a punch, doesn’t it? What is it that leads young people to imagine they are going to immediately land a great job with dollars to match? Do they think that because of the amount of money their parents spent, or the sum of the student loans they were burdened down with to become qualified, it is their right? Are students being misled by colleges, which charge such inflated fees, to believe that there is a fantastic job just waiting for them out in the big wide world? WRONG! Even ‘doctors and lawyers and such’ don’t earn big money when they first graduate. They have to work long hours and work their way up to that great salary.

We have a young 23 year-old friend with a Masters Degree in Biochemistry seeking a job in statistical research in the health field. She finished with a GPA of 4.0 and she cannot find a job. Instead of sitting at home moping about it, she is doing a statistical data job while she keeps looking.

I think that many young graduates have not been appropriately prepared for the real world by their parents. It is not the school’s job to teach them that all is not fair in the working world. That is the parents’ responsibility. Perhaps our values have concentrated more on ‘our rights’ than on ‘earning the right’! 


1. The appropriate knowledge or qualifications.
2. The appropriate experience.
Acquiring the experience is very frustrating when you can’t get a job in the first place! However, there are a number if things parents can do to prepare teens for getting good, well-paying jobs.


A very important early exercise, that can begin as early as elementary school, is to encourage your child to think about careers they may like to explore. Take them to such places of employment to check them out. In fact, expose them to as many jobs as you can. Introduce them to people you may know in those fields so they become familiar with possibilities as well as requirements. In doing so, your child will more likely seek the kind of knowledge and skills for that vocation rather than waste your money on general qualifications that will not entice an employer to choose them at the interview.


 As they are thinking of vocations walk them through an employment scenario. Have them pretend they are an employer in a job area of interest. Get them to write down what this prospective employee would need to know and do. Include physical aspects, knowledge base and value expectations. Then ask your teen if he/she would get the job with their current knowledge/skill set? If not, what do they need to do to prepare more thoroughly for a successful interview?

When I was looking for jobs years ago when jobs were more abundant, I succeeded in everything I applied for. In the current work climate, this rarely happens. We can significantly enhance our teens’ chances by helping them explore their options early, getting them into voluntary work for the sake of ‘experience’ and teaching them crucial values such as honesty, loyalty, obeying authority and respect.

Good preparation will have your children feeling confident and willing to earn their way into satisfying jobs.

 Rules for Life are written by Charles J Sykes
Comments by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families